Muslim street preacher Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas in Toronto. (Terry Davidson/Toronto Sun)

So what is the media obsession with Muslims? Why is there such a need to discuss what’s under our burqas, or better yet, use ridiculous veil puns when speaking about Islam, Islamic law, Women in Islam, countries like Dubai or Iran, and of course, hijab?  From fake fatwas on phallic vegetables to the threat of creeping shari’ah coming soon to a McDonald’s near you — whatever the story, the Media is sure to get a lot of play from Muslims.

Especially if they’re able to ridicule Muslims as a community, make underhanded racist comments, depreciate Islamic religious practices or promote xenophobic fear mongering.

Take for example the recent, unfortunate remarks made by Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana. This 33-year old convert and street preacher wrote an email to the Toronto Sun suggesting that Canadian lawmakers should, “introduce laws that would make it illegal for women to dress provocatively in the streets” in order to “help prevent sexual assaults from happening in the future.” Naturally, The Sun News Network sensed a winner and constructed a handful of articles, three expert video interviews, mirror articles in Canada’s major Sun-affiliated cities, and a HuffPo spot out of some guy’s random, illogical thoughts.

Within 24 hours, the Toronto Sun had interviews with Atangana — complete with delicious sound bites of him saying that women who dress provocatively are always at risk for rape, and that the Muslim women’s dress should be used as a model for protection. Because you know, blame for rape and sexual assault lies directly with the victim, not the perpetrator. And wearing modest clothing is going to magically protect you. Right.

Pretty inflammatory, offensive and immature comments to be sure. But Atangana is no serious cleric. He’s not an imam. He is in no position to heavily (or even lightly) influence the minds of Canadian Muslims. He’s just some guy who hangs out downtown handing out free Qur’ans next to the “Jesus Saves” guy and Spiderman.

I’m surprised he just didn’t suggest that women should be locked up indoors.

Regardless, Atangana was soon described as an imam and a “radical Muslim.” His remarks were stretched and reworked to say that he was calling for laws that would require WESTERN women to cover up as a way of stopping sexual assaults. Muslim experts were called in to give their two cents stating that “Islamists” share Atangana’s “misogynist medieval mindset.” The hijab and niqab were once again ridiculed as an irrational clothing option for women. And opinions were shared stating that his “extremist” sentiments are popular among those who “revere the Taliban, or want Sharia law in Western countries.”

Sure, popular among those who revere the Taliban…. AND the Toronto police officer who said women should avoid dressing like “sluts” if they didn’t want to be victimized, as well as every other catalysis of the Slutwalk movement.

Anyone who believes in victim blaming and shaming women participates in the patriarchal and misogynist support of rape culture. Suggesting that women should mimic the modest dress of Muslims in order to help reduce the number of sexual assaults and rape is beyond offensive. It’s polarizing and shaming to non-Muslims — and completely ignorant of the sexual assaults and domestic rapes that are happening within our community. Let’s also not forget all of the women who are attacked *because* they wear the hijab.

Yes, there is a level of slut-shamming culture attached to hijab — but just because you’ll find a lot of hijabis in Muslim-majority countries, it doesn’t necessarily mean patriarchy has forced them all into covering, or that we should fear hijab as a “foreign influence.” We all know hijab is worn for many reasons. While protection against rape in my opinion, is low on the list, it is unfortunately used as a marketing tool to sell the many wonders of wearing the hijab (and simultaneously disservices men by portraying them as flies or wolves and brainless, horn-dogs who lose all restraint at the mere suggestion of an ankle).

Atangana is misguided and no doubt, has an agenda — it’s why he went to the Sun in the first place. But the Sun has an agenda as well.

Friendly, moderate feminist Muslims don’t sell papers. Politically dysfunctional, culturally backward, foreign, Western-hating, terror-inducing, Shari’ah loving, hijab-wearing Muslims sell papers. They sell even MORE papers when it can be shown just how accessible these “extremist sentiments” are — especially when they’re held by the random Muslim on the street.

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